The Anatomy of Design: Hungry for Concept

Feb 18, 2015  | 

Design Trends

Each season, there is a popular trend or style that everyone wants a piece of. This fad becomes ever-present - until something new comes along.  As an artist, I tend to stray away from the trends of the moment and maintain uniqueness through my own individual creativity. However, I find that this is not always easy, and it begs a few questions. How is this possible when what is popular in the world of design is everywhere you look? How do we distinguish ourselves from what has already been done before, and how can I make my design different from the designs of others? These are the set of questions I ask myself before each and every project I begin.


Research is always my first step. Good design research can come in many forms, but the most important way to research is to first ask questions. The answers will allow the creative process to take a natural direction. It is important to cover all your bases, and know all your angles before you begin your work. This is why I find that knowing the background story of a client or a project before I begin always helps. To know the purpose and origin of a specific project or a company is the key to finding the right design fit for them. It is important to know your clients as people. Sure, some may think a certain design looks good, but as a designer I want to push past the admiration of a good design and get to a concept that evokes something more than admiration. Designs can be visually pleasing, but without a concept a design can just be something that “looks good.” In order to create a concept you must brainstorm. This could be a collective of brainstorm that  involves both the designer and the client. This is a time to get together and let creative minds generate ideas. Brainstorming allows ideas to flow and bounce off one another, which allows a unique, feasible design concepts to emerge.

Drawing Board

From personal experience, going back to the drawing board, literally, is the best way to begin bringing that concept to life. A pencil and a blank piece of paper staring back at you can be intimidating at times, but with a solid concept in mind you will feel like nothing can stop you. This process creates the perfect medium to record a flow of ideas. This brings back the old-school process of drawing your idea out in front of you, looking the idea in the eye. I’ve found that the best ideas spark from relatable topics and experiences. This could be anything that stuck with you through the years. A concept that is personal is one that will stand out from the rest. We may have similar experiences, but no two people have the same reaction to it. Material consumption is so easy to duplicate. However, if we build designs based on experiences, they’re more likely to be unique. What if we built design from feeling that could wage philosophy? Philosophy meaning social wisdom, a wisdom that we look for not from buying stuff from a pile of consumerism but the untold story that is behind the product.

A concept is a structural reason behind a visual idea. Concept remains abstract until something brings it to life out of a collection of materials. Designers really serve as professional organizers of these materials. How we arrange these materials is what makes them differ from the rest. Every company starts with a story. They have two visions: the way they see themselves, and the way they want to be seen. It is the details that start a direction for the design to take. A good design contains more than what meets the eye. Imagine a balloon without air, it could be a great looking balloon but its not going anywhere. Something else has to fill the design to make it more than just visually appealing.

Concept is the Heart of the Design

Personally, as soon as I know the right concept I want to use for a design, I write it down somewhere I will look often. It is easy to get lost in a sea of design visuals and lose track of where they originally came from. Stick with your idea and follow through with it; let it grow.

         Without concept, designs would overlap and not allow the design world to evolve, in which case computers could do my job...and I really love my job.  A concept can be anything from a philosophical definition to a simple guideline to produce framework. No matter what form a concept may emerge from, it is the beating heart that gives the design life.


By  Sarah Carnes

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Sarah had an interest in art, writing and technology from a very early age. She spent her childhood building websites and designing album artwork. Fortunate enough to attend a high school that offered graphic design classes, she was able to pursue her passion and expertise earlier than most of her peers.

After two years at Northern Kentucky University, Sarah transferred to Stephens College in pursuit of smaller class sizes and an emphasis in marketing and communications, rather than fine art. Stephens College offered a one-on-one learning environment in which she excelled and customized her education.

Sarah has held various marketing and design positions including Brake Printing, Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, Westminster College and Fresh Ideas Food Service as the Director of Marketing. Her career has allowed her to innovate, lead and execute strategic marketing initiatives from the ground up while managing a team of digital marketers. Sarah has managed and developed marketing, communication, branding, digital communities and creative direction for various companies throughout her career.

Her role at Lift Division is to manage new website development clients, oversee all creative aspects of web development, branding, identity, social media and other digital marketing endeavors.